Blog Tour & Book Review: The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

Susan Mallery is one of my go-to authors when it comes to contemporary women’s fiction with a dash of steamy romance, quirky humour, and lots of heart. I wasn’t about to let the opportunity to participate in the Harlequin blog tour with fellow booklovers slip me by as Mallery’s newest release, The Friendship List, hit shelves yesterday.

From the Publisher:

Already a worldwide success in mass market and trade paperback formats, Susan Mallery’s newest hardcover is an emotional, witty, and heartfelt story about two best friends who are determined to help one another shake things up and live life to the fullest…only to discover that possibilities are everywhere–especially in the most unexpected of places.

Ellen and Unity have been best friends basically since birth, but they couldn’t be more different. Unity married her childhood sweetheart just after high school and became an Army wife, moving from base to base…until her husband’s shocking death in the line of duty leaves her a widow. Grief-stricken, it’s time for Unity to come back home to Ellen—the only person she can trust to help her rebuild her life. But Ellen has troubles of her own. Boys never seemed to notice Ellen…until one got her pregnant in high school and disappeared. Her son is now 17 and she’s wondering what to do with herself now that he’s heading off to college and he’s literally her entire world.

But now that Ellen and Unity are reunited, they’re done with their stale lives. It’s time to shake things up and start living again, knowing that they’ll always have one another to lean on. So they create a list of challenges they have to accomplish–everything from getting a tattoo to skydiving to staying out all night. And whoever completes the most challenges is the winner. But with new adventures and love just around the corner, there’s no such thing as losing…

My Thoughts:

Full of Mallery’s quirky humour and the strong bonds of friendships, this was a book that celebrated self-awareness, growth, and romance. The characters are quirky and real and the novel has a cadence that carries you from start to finish in a blink of an eye. While it wasn’t my favourite title by Ms. Mallery (her Fool’s Gold series has a few books to hold that honour), it was an easy-to-read contemporary story that will make you value your friends and want to try new things for yourself. You may find yourself wiping away a tear or two, groaning in frustration, or laughing out loud! You’ll be pulled in cover to cover and the ending will leave you feeling pretty content!

I was provided with a complimentary title via the publisher to download via NetGalley. I’ll leave my standard content warning for adult situations – reader discretion advised.

About the Author:

SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship and romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations,” and readers seem to agree—forty million copies of her books have been sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She’s passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two Ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as Mom.

Buy Links:

Check your favourite bookseller or buy online.

The Friendship List: A Novel 
Susan Mallery
On Sale Date: August 4, 2020
ISBN 9781335136961, 1335136967
Hardcover
$26.99 USD, $33.50 CAD
Fiction / Romance / Contemporary 
384 pages

Harlequin 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour – The Black Swan of Paris by Karen Robards

If you enjoy WWII romantic historical fiction, you’ll want to head over to your favourite bookseller and pre-order Karen Robard’s new title, The Black Swan of Paris. If you don’t pre-order, be sure to add your name to your local library’s wait list or set a reminder to buy this book. It releases on June 30th – exactly a week from today!

Engaging, With A Beautiful Cadence & Voice

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
For fans of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris comes a thrilling standalone by New York Times bestselling author Karen Robards about a celebrated singer in WWII occupied France who joins the Resistance to save her estranged family from being killed in a German prison.

In Occupied France, the Resistance trembles on the brink of destruction. Its operatives, its secrets, its plans, all will be revealed. One of its leaders, wealthy aristocrat Baron Paul de Rocheford, has been killed in a raid and the surviving members of his cell, including his wife the elegant Baronness Lillian de Rocheford, have been arrested and transported to Germany for interrogation and, inevitably, execution.

Captain Max Ryan, British SOE, is given the job of penetrating the impregnable German prison where the Baroness and the remnants of the cell are being held and tortured. If they can’t be rescued he must kill them before they can give up their secrets.

Max is in Paris, currently living under a cover identity as a show business impresario whose star attraction is Genevieve Dumont. Young, beautiful Genevieve is the toast of Europe, an icon of the glittering entertainment world that the Nazis celebrate so that the arts can be seen to be thriving in the occupied territories under their rule.

What no one knows about Genevieve is that she is Lillian and Paul de Rocheford’s younger daughter. Her feelings toward her family are bitter since they were estranged twelve years ago. But when she finds out from Max just what his new assignment entails, old, long-buried feelings are rekindled and she knows that no matter what she can’t allow her mother to be killed, not by the Nazis and not by Max. She secretly establishes contact with those in the Resistance who can help her. Through them she is able to contact her sister Emmy, and the sisters put aside their estrangement to work together to rescue their mother.

It all hinges on a command performance that Genevieve is to give for a Gestapo General in the Bavarian town where her mother and the others are imprisoned. While Genevieve sings and the show goes on, a daring rescue is underway that involves terrible danger, heartbreaking choices, and the realization that some ties, like the love between a mother and her daughters and between sisters, are forever.

MY THOUGHTS:
Robard balances the glitz and glamour of famed Paris nightlife with the tension and danger of being part of the Resistance in the midst of Occupied Europe. Opulence is countered with uncertainty, daring with danger. This novel is a bit of a slow-burn that will keep you fascinated from the very first chapter. The intricate story lines crisscross to create a beautifully crafted novel rife with romance, intrigue, heartbreak, and hope.

It was not as thrilling as other WWII novel’s I’ve read – the identity of the Black Swan in the novel also lends a layer of protection and benefits to the heroine that play very much into the pace of the story itself. Her celebrity affords a perfect veil and she becomes a ticket to move in circles otherwise inaccessible – but with this level of security also comes a risk that seems to be less intense (though no less real or relevant) than perhaps communicated in other characterizations found in this genre. When I say thrilling, I suppose I refer to pace. It’s very much engaging, but the excitement comes in to play well after you’ve begun to know the key players and care about them. Overall, it was a touching, engaging piece of fiction with a beautiful cadence and voice – reader discretion advised mostly for some grisly scenes.

My thanks to my friends at Mira Books (Harlequin) and the author for the complimentary copy of this title and chance to share my thoughts as part of the 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour. This is a great sunny day on the deck or lounging in a hammock read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR AND BUY LINKS:
Karen Robards is the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of more than fifty novels and one novella. She is the winner of six Silver Pen awards and numerous other awards.

Author Website: http://karenrobards.com/
Twitter: @TheKarenRobards
Facebook: @AuthorKarenRobards

THE BLACK SWAN OF PARIS
Author: Karen Robards
ISBN: 9780778309338
Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: MIRA

Harlequin
Indiebound
Amazon
Amazon.ca
Barnes & Noble
Books-A-Million
Target
Walmart
Google
iBooks
Kobo

Blog Tour & Book Review: Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle

Soon to be released, Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle jumped out at me when I was looking at my download options from the Harlequin 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour – Mystery & Thriller list. It was not what I expected going in, and I mean that in a good way. Sometimes you read the book blurb and think you know exactly what you’re getting and this exceeded my expectations.

From the Publisher:
When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

My Thoughts:
I had some serious trust issues with many of the characters. I really couldn’t quite get a handle on whether they were telling the truth throughout the dialogue. The pacing was excellent and most of the characters were appealing… until they were not. There were flashbacks that drew an interesting comparison between personalities as teens vs. who they grew up to be. I had niggling doubts (those trust issues, again) because I couldn’t determine who was lying and being true to their character.

The author did a wonderful job of conveying Charlotte’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Her voice and the threads throughout the novel made me more and more curious throughout. There was a lot of convenient scenarios that had me arguing with myself about whether it was too convenient or just a matter of luck and I think that speaks well to the author keeping things muddy enough to keep the reader interested. Again, it was not a fast paced thriller, but it had me going “hmmmm…” more than once and through in some unforeseen twists and turns.

About the Author:
Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of six novels, including the forthcoming Stranger in the Lake (June 2020). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links:

Buy Links:

Stranger in the Lake
Kimberly Belle
On Sale Date: June 9, 2020
9780778309819, 0778309819
Trade Paperback
$17.99 USD, $22.99 CAD
Fiction / Thrillers / Psychological
352 pages

Blog Tour & Book Review: This Is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

It’s a bit of a gloomy spring day and somehow it seems a little atmospheric while sharing about the newest title from author Heather Gudenkauf. Just released, I’m taking part in a blog tour organized by the publisher, Park Row Books, an imprint of Harlequin, and throwing my two cents into the hat.

From the Publisher:

With the eccentricity of Fargo and the intensity of Sadie, THIS IS HOW I LIED by Heather Gudenkauf (Park Row Books; May 12, 2020; $17.99) is a timely and gripping thriller about careless violence we can inflict on those we love, and the lengths we will go to make it right, even 25 years later.

Tough as nails and seven months pregnant, Detective Maggie Kennedy-O’Keefe of Grotto PD, is dreading going on desk duty before having the baby her and her husband so badly want. But when new evidence is found in the 25-year-old cold case of her best friend’s murder that requires the work of a desk jockey, Maggie jumps at the opportunity to be the one who finally puts Eve Knox’s case to rest.

Maggie has her work cut out for her. Everyone close to Eve is a suspect. There’s Nola, Eve’s little sister who’s always been a little… off; Nick, Eve’s ex-boyfriend with a vicious temper; a Schwinn riding drifter who blew in and out of Grotto; even Maggie’s husband Sean, who may have known more about Eve’s last day than he’s letting on. As Maggie continues to investigate, the case comes closer and closer to home, forcing her to confront her own demons before she can find justice for Eve. 

My Thoughts:

As far as a mystery/thriller, this one was excellent. There were portions that I maybe didn’t quite buy as far as how things went down, but overall it was a gripping and evocative read. It was atmospheric and intense – I felt every emotion, saw every incident with a vividness that indicates the magnitude of the author’s talent in delivering a well-written scene.

I seem to enjoy the proverbial small town setting where everyone is in everyone’s business. This small town just happens to also be rife with bad seeds and deep, dark secrets. Fortunately, truth always tells… that or DNA testing. Threads of history keep unraveling as the horrible event and incidents leading up to the death of a beloved friend are revealed throughout an investigation by someone with very close ties to the murder. On the whole, it did what a thriller should – kept me on my toes and I couldn’t put it down!

About the Author:

Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of many books, including The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. Heather graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in elementary education, has spent her career working with students of all ages. She lives in Iowa with her husband, three children, and a very spoiled German Shorthaired Pointer named Lolo. In her free time, Heather enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, and running.

Buy Links:

Harlequin 
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Social Links:

Author Website
Twitter: @hgudenkauf
Instagram: @heathergudenkauf
Facebook: @HeatherGudenkaufAuthor
Goodreads

THIS IS HOW I LIED
Author: Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN: 9780778309703
Publication Date: May 12, 2020
Publisher: Park Row Books

Blog Tour & Book Review: The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman

While we enjoyed a few days of mild weather at the end of February – well before our days of self-isolation – I itched to get my hands dirty (an urge that generally passes by July.) I had to console myself with the slow-paced delights of The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman (which, by the way, I discovered is a nom de pleume the same time I finished the book.

FROM THE PUBLISHER:

In this heartwarming and feel-good novel filled with echoes of Dorothea Benton Frank, Debbie Macomber and Elizabeth Berg, two women separated by a generation but equally scarred by war find hope, meaning – and each other – through a garden of heirloom flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to loneliness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind a towering fence surrounding her home and gardens, the former botanist has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to an heirloom garden filled with starts – and memories – of her own mother, grandmother, husband and daughter.

When Abby Peterson moves to Grand Haven, Michigan, with her family – a husband traumatized during his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability – they find themselves next door to Iris, and are slowly drawn into her reclusive neighbour’s life where, united by loss and a love of flowers, Iris and Abby slowly unearth their secrets to each other. Eventually, the two teach one another that the earth grounds us all, gardens are a grand healer, and as flowers bloom so do our hopes and dreams.

MY THOUGHTS:

While I am, self-admittedly, an emotional reader, this sweet and poignant story pulled each of my heartstrings. Shipman paints a vivid picture of glorious garden splendor, damaged souls, and the healing power of friendship. Scars of war effect a family and a neighbor as they come to grips with new normals and build foundations for a happier future.

Picturesque descriptions of flora, strong female leads, and a fantastic setting (hello, Great Lakes Michigan resort town!) will have you craving cottages, sand dunes, and friends with old souls. The Heirloom Garden flips between eras and character perspective, providing a beautiful depiction of strength and hope through inter-generational storytelling with an emphasis on treasuring memories and heirlooms through love and loss. A remarkably emotion-evoking read that will inspire you to plan a family vacation to Grand Haven.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a complimentary Advanced Readers Copy through NetGalley. All opinions expressed are my own. This post was created as part of the Harlequin 2020 Spring Reads Blog Tour.

Published by HARLEQUIN – Trade Publishing (U.S. & Canada), Graydon House Imprint.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020

You’ll be able to purchase direct from the publisher, from your favourite local bookseller, or any major retailer where books are sold.

SOCIAL LINKS:
Author Website: https://www.violashipman.com/
TWITTER: @viola_shipman
FB: @authorviolashipman
Insta: @viola_shipman
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14056193.Viola_Shipman

Book Review & Blog Tour: The Third to Die by Allison Brennan

While historical fiction and women’s fiction seem to be my regular go-to’s when it comes to genres I enjoy, every once in awhile I enjoy pulling out a heart-pounding, fast-paced thriller or suspense. I’m excited to say that Harlequin hooked me up and I’ve recently had the chance to read The Third to Die, the highly anticipated first book in Allison Brennan’s new series. This title hits shelves on February 4th. All the Buy Links and author information will be posted way down below if you’re interested in pre-ordering a copy for yourself – and if you’re a fan of this genre, you’ll want to pick up a copy.

From the Publisher:

New York Times bestselling author and gifted storyteller Allison Brennan’s new standalone thriller features a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer.

Brennan’s novel will launch a book-a-year series featuring a fabulous cast of recurring characters. It’s the story of a troubled female police detective and an ambitious FBI special agent who wind up at the center of a ticking-clock investigation into a diabolical serial killer; and the bond they forge in this crucible sets the stage for the future books in the series.

Detective Kara Quinn is visiting her hometown of Liberty Lake, Washington, after being placed
on administrative leave by the LAPD, when she comes upon the mutilated body of a young
nurse during an early morning jog. The manner of death is clearly ritualistic; she calls it in.
Meanwhile back in DC, special agent in charge Mattias Costa is meticulously staffing his
newly-minted Mobile Response Team. One of his first recruits is the brilliant FBI forensic
psychologist Catherine Jones. When word reaches Matt that the Washington state murder
appears to be the work of the Triple Killer–it will be the first case for the MRT. Jones has done
the only profile on this serial killer, but she is reluctant to join the unit, still shaken by the death
of her sister a year ago under circumstances for which she holds herself responsible. But only
she holds the key to understanding the killer’s obsessive pattern–three murder victims, three
deep slashes a piece, each three days apart, each series beginning on a March 3rd–3/3, then a
three-year hiatus before he strikes again.

This time they have a chance to stop him before he claims another victim strikes, but only if they
can figure out who he is and where is is hiding.

About the Author:

Allison Brennan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of three dozen thrillers and numerous short stories. She was nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers, has had multiple nominations and two Daphne
du Maurier Awards, and is a five-time RITA finalist for Best Romantic Suspense. Allison believes life is too short to be bored, so she had five kids. Allison and her family live in Arizona. Visit her at allisonbrennan.com

Social links for the author include:
Facebook: @AllisonBrennan
Twitter: @Allison_Brennan
Instagram: @abwrites
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/52527.Allison_Brennan

My Thoughts:

Ms. Brennan is an award winning author for a reason – simply put, she knows what she’s doing. This book was fast-paced and had my heart-pounding. Twists and turns will keep you on your toes in anticipation. She gets inside the mind of a psychopath so well, but also paints a picturesque view of the surrounding landscapes. Her heroes are brilliant, damaged, and likeable and the whole package will keep you engrossed until the very last page. The Third to Die is the very ideal of a page-turning, nail-biting, read-it-all-in-one-sitting-don’t-talk-to-me type of novel – suspenseful, intense, and entertaining!

For my more discriminating friends, I’ll leave you with this caution: reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language. This is not a tip-toe through the tulips, neat and tidy, no rough edges fiction. It’s dark and gritty as the plot is all about stopping the lowest dregs of humanity.

Buy Links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0778309444/httpwwwalli0f-20
Amazon (Canada): https://www.amazon.ca/Third-Die-Allison-Brennan-ebook/dp/B07S4BCQMJ/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+third+to+die&qid=1580228085&sr=8-1
Barnes & Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-third-to-die-allison-brennan/1131669020;jsessionid=C1
F1BD4B1DE6C665460E505FA5022816.prodny_store02-atgap03?ean=9780778309444

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778309444
Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780778309444
AppleBooks: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-third-to-die/id1464894471
Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Allison_Brennan_The_Third_to_Die?id=0sWZDwAA
QBAJ


Harlequin Holiday Blog Tour – Winter 2020

We are midway into December and it’s only 2 more weeks or so until Christmas. I think it’s safe to say that holiday reading and recommendations are in full swing – unless you’re like me and can curl up with a Christmas novel in the middle of July. Sun, rain, snow – I don’t care what the weather looks like outside or what the calendar says, there’s something delightful in the feel-good formula that most holiday-themed tales will deliver.

Harlequin is hosting a Holiday Blog Tour that began December 1st and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. They were kind enough to offer a number of titles to choose from and my selections were CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS by Brenda Novak, A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan, COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by RaeAnne Thayne. Read on for a quick synopsis of each title and my own thoughts post-binge.

Christmas In Silver Springs by Brenda Novak

Come home to Silver Springs for the holidays, where broken hearts learn to love again…together.

So much for forever. When Harper Devlin’s rock star husband ditches her on his way to the top, she takes her two daughters to her sister’s place in Silver Springs for the holidays, hoping family can heal her broken heart. But comfort comes in unexpected places when she crosses paths with local Tobias Richardson.

The moment Tobias spots Harper, he recognizes a sadness he knows all too well. After spending thirteen years in prison paying for his regretful past, Tobias is ready to make amends, and maybe helping Harper is the way to do it. But offering her a shoulder to cry on ignites a powerful attraction and a desire neither saw coming.

Fearing her reaction, Tobias doesn’t reveal his checkered past. He’s falling hard, and if Harper finds out, he’ll lose her for good, especially because her famous ex is now trying to win her back. Secrets have a way of coming out, but maybe this Christmas will bring Tobias the forgiveness—and the love—he deserves.

My Thoughts:

I liked the characters – even, ashamedly, the bad guy ex-husband who made so many mistakes. Separation and divorce are never easy, I would imagine, and everyone is going to handle it a little different. As in each of Novak’s novels, she did an excellent job with charisma, emotions, and character tension. Her stories also typically have a bit of steamy heat that you can read through or skip past if you desire. Overall, a 7 out of 10 mistletoes – it was quick and easy, but I didn’t quite find the Christmas “heart” I was hoping for, even though there was, of course, romance and growth all set at Christmas. It just didn’t leave me ready to decorate my tree. That being said, it was an overall enjoyable contemporary romance – Harlequin knows what works.

Publication Date: October 29, 2019
Publisher: MIRA BOOKS
Available now from all major booksellers.
Recommended for: sitting by a fire, tucked into a stocking, winter passenger commuting


A Wedding In December by Sarah Morgan

This funny, charming and heartwarming new Christmas novel is USA TODAY bestselling
author Sarah Morgan at her festive best!

In the snowy perfection of Aspen, the White family gathers for youngest daughter Rosie’s whirlwind Christmas wedding. First to arrive are the bride’s parents, Maggie and Nick. Their daughter’s marriage is a milestone they are determined to celebrate wholeheartedly, but they are hiding a huge secret of their own: they are on the brink of divorce. After living apart for the last six months, the last thing they need is to be trapped together in an irresistibly romantic winter wonderland.

Rosie’s older sister, Katie, is also dreading the wedding. Worried that impulsive, sweet-hearted Rosie is making a mistake, Katie is determined to save her sister from herself! If only the irritatingly good-looking best man, Jordan, would stop interfering with her plans…


Bride-to-be Rosie loves her fiancé but is having serious second thoughts. Except everyone has
arrived—how can she tell them she’s not sure? As the big day gets closer, and emotions run
even higher, this is one White family Christmas none of them will ever forget!

My Thoughts:

First, this novel had me laughing on multiple occasions. The lies we tell can get us into some seriously interesting situations and this family has some issues (don’t we all!) I also don’t mean that in a bad way – they all just wanted to protect each other so badly that things, frankly, often went badly. There was a lot to unwrap in this one as it wasn’t just a quick romance – it had some depth and layers to it. Gorgeous setting and great characters that I loved at times and wanted to throw into a snowbank at others. Some heat and lots of romance and so much poor communication. Overall, 8 out of 10 mistletoes – it had more of the heart I was looking for in a novel set over the holidays without being overly sweet like a gingerbread latte with too many pumps of syrup. Bonus points for the gorgeous cover design!

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: HQN Books

Available now from all major booksellers.
Recommended for: a weekend snowed in, reading way past your bedtime, tucked into a gift bag with some cozy socks and fancy hot chocolate for the romance lover in your life


Coming Home for Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

Hearts are lighter and wishes burn a little brighter at Christmas…

Elizabeth Hamilton has been lost. Trapped in a tangle of postpartum depression and grief after the death of her beloved parents, she couldn’t quite see the way back to her husband and their two beautiful kids…until a car accident stole away her memories and changed her life. And when she finally remembered the sound of little Cassie’s laugh, the baby powder smell of
Bridger and the feel of her husband’s hand in hers, Elizabeth worried that they’d moved on
without her. That she’d missed too much. That perhaps she wasn’t the right mother for her kids or wife for Luke, no matter how much she loved them.

But now, seven years later, Luke finds her in a nearby town and brings Elizabeth back home to
the family she loves, just in time for Christmas. And being reunited with Luke and her children is better than anything Elizabeth could have imagined. As they all trim the tree and bake cookies,making new holiday memories, Elizabeth and Luke are drawn ever closer. Can the hurt of the past seven years be healed over the course of one Christmas season and bring the Hamiltons the gift of a new beginning?

My Thoughts:

Admittedly, this was my favourite of the three. It had ALL the heart, some mystery, romance, and the expected feel-goods you look for in a novel touted as a Christmas story. Is it mind-shattering, literary genius? No – but the talented Thayne serves up love, joy, hope, and cheer in a pretty little package that will make you sigh with glee as you get to the very last page. It touches on some heart-breaking real-life issues and I was thrilled with the way it all turned out in the end. New beginnings, indeed. 10 out of 10 mistletoes for this one. It just captured all the essence and magic of a cozy Christmas romance for me. This novel is part of the Haven Point Series but can definitely be read as a standalone – I have only read some of the previous titles and was still enthralled without feeling lost.

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Publisher: HQN Books

Available now from all major booksellers.
Recommended for: reading in a bubble bath with no kids banging on the door, curling up on the sofa with a warm tea and cuddly blanket, wrapped under the tree for your romance-lover with her beverage of choice and box of her favourite chocolate (why can’t I find Guylian anywhere anymore?!?)


My thanks to my friends at Harlequin for the chance to dive into these charming holiday reads! My heart feels warm and fuzzy after these ones.

Book Review: Met Her Match by Jude Deveraux

Best-selling author, Jude Deveraux, has held my attention for years. Offhand, I can’t think of any of her titles that I haven’t enjoyed. Met Her Match, Deveraux’s newest release, was just as enjoyable as her other titles.

From the publisher:
Set in the beloved fictional town of Summer Hill, Virginia, Met Her Match examines the tensions between the wealthy townspeople, the summer vacationers and the working-class people who keep the town and resort running. Told with humor and heart, Met Her Match is the perfect summer escape.

Perfect summer escape, indeed. The balance between the “classes”, the mystery, the camaraderie, the romance – they were all sweetly done in that read-in-a-hammock type of way. (If you’re a devotee of romance novels, you’ll totally get what I mean!) The chemistry between the love interests, the descriptions of the resort town, and all the twists of gossip – reliable or otherwise – made for a relatable read and made you feel like you were sitting lakeside with the rest of the crew.

It might not be summer anymore, but this one would be a great stocking stuffer for those who like sweet, sizzling, contemporary romance with a twist of mystery. Great to read over a weekend or sitting in the school carpool lane! Released a few days ago, it should be available on all major booksellers shelves now.

My thanks to the publisher for a chance to read an advanced reader’s copy courtesy of NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Published by: Harlequin Mira
Publication Date: September 17, 2019

Blog Tour & Book Review: The East End by Jason Allen

The East End by Jason Allen was just published this week – on Tuesday, to be exact. Congratulations to the author! I know a lot of heart and soul and sweat and tears go into the process of taking a book from idea to page to publication. When a publicist at HarperCollins sent the initial description and asked if I’d like to be part of the blog tour, I jumped on board. Here is some information on the book, the author, and my final thoughts.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

After graduating high school, Corey Halpern would love to leave the Hamptons and never look back. He is stuck though, saddled with responsibility for his alcoholic mother, Gina, and his younger brother. So for now, he finds momentary escape by breaking and entering. The night before Memorial Day weekend, he targets the estate of Leo Sheffield, the billionaire CEO for whom he and Gina work.  But everything goes awry. Leo arrives suddenly—and he’s not alone. As Corey looks on in stunned horror, he witnesses a fatal mishap…as does another traumatized onlooker. With everything to lose, Leo will do whatever it takes to cover up the truth. Things spiral out of control, however. Pushed to their limits, Corey, Gina, and Leo all hurtle towards climactic showdowns as explosive as the holiday fireworks lighting up the night sky.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jason Allen grew up in a working-class home in the Hamptons, where he worked a variety of blue-collar jobs for wealthy estate owners. He writes fiction, poetry, and memoir, and is the author of the poetry collection A Meditation on Fire. He has an MFA from Pacific University and a PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where he teaches writing at Clayton State University. THE EAST END is his first novel.

MY REVIEW:.

I like to provide honest reviews and I always feel a little awkward when I don’t rave about a title. So I will be honest and say this is not a book I would have purchased on my own and I realised that very quickly into the first two chapters. I know it would not be a title I would recommend to a lot of the real-life readers who are part of my circle because they would have found it incredibly offensive – it’s raw and graphic and full of harsh language and scenes that would have left them uncomfortable. (A “Rated R… viewer discretion advised” type of novel.) That being said, I know a ton of other readers in my online circles who would absolutely love this book for all the same reasons – because it’s edgy, and fast-paced, and very, very corrupt.

So while I can’t recommend it in good conscience to some of my dear and closest friends, I can say that THE EAST END is well-written. It’s not bright or cheerful, but dark and atmospheric. It’s sad (as in desolate) and tumbles along at quite a pace. It’s not a traditional mystery or suspense, but it’s suspenseful in the tension-filled, catastrophic rush to a shocking ending. The lives of many unhappy people are intertwined and the moral/immoral choices and quandaries – the lies, the loyalties, the tale of a whole bunch of people who are not happy with their lives and are trying to fill the gaps with drug and alcohol addiction, unhealthy relationships, illicit affairs, and illegal hobbies – catch up in one dynamite conclusion. The author does a remarkable job of capturing the despair and despondency of the characters despite their socio-economic differences. He effectively touches on the need for trust and connection while highlighting the dangers of secrecy, obsession, and desperation. Best of all he leaves you with a small spark of hope that two of the main characters find redemption and happily ever after.

(As a small note of humour, when I finished, all I could think is, “Man, I don’t think I’ll ever visit the Hamptons. People are not happy there.” I’m sure the tourism board will be thrilled with this one… )

My thanks to the publisher, Harlequin, for providing a copy of this title and inviting me to be a part of this tour.


Book Review: The Summer Retreat by Sheila Roberts


Exactly what you expect from a
summer paperback

When a publicist at Harlequin (Mira / Harper Collins) sent an email invitation to download this book for review, I jumped right on it. The phrase that caught my attention was “Perfect for fans of Susan Mallery, Robyn Carr, and Debbie Macomber, THE SUMMER RETREAT will have readers falling in love with Roberts’ sparkling humor and moving story lines in a delightful enemies to lovers tale of summer romance and sisterly bonding.” Count me in.

The Summer Retreat is the third installment by USA TODAY bestselling author Sheila Roberts in her seaside escape, beach-ready Moonlight Harbor series. It was my first read from this author and, obviously also my first read from this series.

Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have been published in several languages. Her book Angel Lane was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network, and her novel The Nine Lives of Christmas was made into a movie for Hallmark. You can visit Sheila on Twitter (@_Sheila_Roberts) and Facebook (@funwithsheila) or at her website.

Overall, it really is the perfect summer read – grab your sunglasses, a glass of something cool, and a great spot to soak up some sun and dive right in. I love the quintessential small town, beach front, everyone knows everyone’s business you get in these types of romance. Quirky and cute. The lead female character is unlucky in love and she feels like she’s running out of time to see her dreams come true. She offers to spend the summer (licking her wounded heart) with her sister, niece, and aunt, helping to run their small ocean-front inn. She decides if she’s going to pursue romance, she’s going to play it safe – cue in the local pastor, the perfect safe (but still attractive) candidate.

I will admit, however, that I wanted to shake sense into our girl (and her sister…) I found myself mentally admonishing her throughout the entire book. No sparks… no sparks… he’s great on paper but he’s not right for you!!! I was actually frustrated until the very end (no spoilers though… no spoilers.) I’m glad that the author came through – I wasn’t sure how she was going to redeem the situation, but rest assured, she did.

There is some sizzle, some sweet romance, some strange and wonderful characters and it’s set seaside – sand and water and a lovable misbehaved pup. All important elements. It did take it’s time meandering along the way (enough already – follow your heart!) and at first, I felt a little lost so perhaps reading the first two installments might be helpful (it could have just been me – I did fight with a parking pay machine for quite some time the other day before I realised the arm was up and they did not, in fact, want my money.) I’m giving it a 3-star rating – which is “it was good” in my review hierarchy – it just wasn’t jaw-dropping, stick with me forever intense. It was exactly what you expect from a summer paperback – easy to toss in your beach bag and read for a quick escape. Watch for this title to hit all major book retailers soon.

My thanks to Harlequin for the opportunity to download this title via NetGalley. All thoughts expressed are my own.

Publication date: April 23, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin – Mira